A True American Hero: My reflections as an Intern for John Glenn

On a Saturday afternoon in 1993, I watched a movie that forever changed my life.  The 1983 movie called “The Right Stuff” is a historical drama that describes the first 15 years of the American space program.  The seven men who were accomplished pilots became astronauts, pioneers and national heroes.   The man who I found to be particularly intriguing went on to become a United States Senator representing the state of his birth.  A man by the name of John Glenn who’s name appeared on an elementary school not far from my home.

This man had an incredible history.  He was an accomplished pilot in World War II and later flew in Korea with baseball legend Ted Williams as his wingman. Mr. Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth, went on to become an executive at Royal Crown Cola Company and elected to the United State Senate.  Most of these feats were accomplished before I was even born.

Just a few days ago, I learned of the death of John Glenn which occurred on December 8, 2016.  Today, he lies in state at the Ohio Statehouse Rotunda. This sad occasion made me reflect and want to share some of the highlights of working for him. Things that I found interesting and details that you probably would never know unless you had the same experience.

A senior in college at the time, I was deeply inspired by the movie.   I called the Senator’s office in Washington and asked if there were any internships available that I might apply for. I indicated that I was very interested in politics, loved computers and was a decent wordsmith for my age.  Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by Caroline Arnold and after a couple of interviews and essays, I was offered an internship in John Glenn’s Press Office in Cleveland, Ohio.

Caroline Arnold retired in 1997 after 12 years on the staff of US Senator John Glenn. Her Letters From Washington has been published as an e-Book by the Knowledge Bank of the Ohio State University Library. Caroline died of cancer on August 19, 2014 at the age of 83.

My duties were fairly simple. I answered phones, listened to and documented the calls of the Senator’s constituents.  The calls ranged in topics from abortion to why the Senator should denounce the actions of Sinn Féin of Ireland.  The fun part though was the opportunity to respond via written letters to those who wrote in and requested a response.

A common question that was asked by school children was “What was it like to walk on the moon?”  Surprisingly, John Glenn did not walk on the moon.  He was the first American to orbit the earth in his space capsule named “Friendship 7” on February 20, 1962.  I lost track of how many letters in which I had to include that revelation. However, a museum in Dallas has requested the Senator’s thoughts on his orbital flight to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the lunar landing.  I had the opportunity of writing the Senator’s response which I believe was on display at the museum.  Sometimes it is the idea that is important not necessarily who conveyed that idea.

AJ

Autopen

Each letter I composed on behalf of the Senator was then taken to the autopen machine.  What is autopen?  It is a machine that mechanically duplicates a person’s signature.  I first felt it to be deceptive in nature, but I learned that this machine and practice dates back to the days of Thomas Jefferson.  Other users include Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. It has been said that President Barrack Obama authorized the use of autopen to extend parts of the Bush tax cut in 2013. In any case, John Glenn was a popular guy and many signed photos went out on a daily basis.

This photo of John Glenn was one of many that I sent out during my internship. It hangs behind my desk as a reminder of an opportunity that I was given that would have an impact on the rest of my life.

The Approach

One afternoon I was answering calls when a gentlemen called in.  He identified himself as John Glenn and asked that I transfer the call to Ms. Arnold.  As a trained call screener, I sarcastically said “Sure this is John Glenn.  How can I help you, sir?”.  I will never forget the response which was

“This is John Glenn, I am on final approach to Burke Lakefront Airport and will be arriving shortly.  With whom do I have the pleasure of speaking with?”

I think it was the biggest lump in my throat I had ever felt. However, in true style, the Senator was a good sport and got a kick out of the whole conversation.  I guess I should have known that when you are such a high achiever, test pilot, astronaut and national hero, flying a plane for a meeting that you have would be common.  That is just what heroes do.  In hindsight, as an Intern and at that age, I guess my response was not atypical.

Annie

Above all his accomplishments, the one most noticeable aspect about the Senator was his love of his wife Annie.  He always mentioned her and was always around her.

The Senator’s office was located at the Federal Building on East 9th and Lakeside Avenue in downtown Cleveland. The winters were brutal. I remember getting frostbite on my ears while waiting for a bus to Cleveland State. My internship with the Senators’ office was not paid.  However, after my internship ended, I received a thank you letter from Ron Grimes who was the legislative director for Senator Glenn during this time period.  Accompanying this thank you was a signed recommendation letter from John Glenn to my future, potential employers which was invaluable.

A view from the Federal Building in 1994 overlooking Cleveland Municipal Stadium and Lake Erie.

As they say, the rest is history…

I applied for 2 positions and was given 2 job offers.  One was with a company in Twinsburg and the other was a company out of Milwaukee called Harley Davidson.  I turned down the offer from Harley Davidson as it required 100% travel and took the position in Twinsburg where I worked for 3 years before starting a business with 2 other investors.

2017 marks the 20th Anniversary of my company, Mango Bay Internet.  The internship that I had with Senator John Glenn was one of the most memorable and impactful experiences of my life. I was able to work for a true American Hero and recognize that this was truly was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity that would be a catalyst for success.  If you have high school and/or college aged children, I strongly suggest having them apply for any internship that may be available to them.  John Glenn inspired me to work hard, take risks and soar to new heights.  I will be forever grateful to him and may he rest in peace.

Godspeed, John Glenn.

Myths and Facts: Does Your Social Media Presence Really Affect Your SEO?

You, and your competitors, are all making an effort to boost your SEO. There is quite a bit of conflicting advice out there as exactly how to energize SEO by using social media. How do you know whether your efforts are making a difference? Simply put, social media efforts can boost SEO, but the link between social and SEO is not always direct. Read on as we discuss three myths on social media and its impact on SEO.

Myth:

Social media posts are treated like individual web pages by Google.

Fact:

While each individual tweet and Facebook post your company publishes are, in fact, treated like individual web pages by Google. These pages do not normally work to increase the ranking of your website on Google. However, they do come up in searches. If you want increased your businesses visibility, you can achieve that by tweeting and posting content that mentions your company’s name along with SEO keywords that will lead potential customers to your business.

Myth:

When your social media posts are shared, this can lead to improved SEO.

Fact:

The key here lies in links. When multiple people share your social media content, that improves its likelihood of being linked to by bloggers and journalists. Those links are going to have a real impact on your SEO.

Myth:

Social media facilitates global connections, but my business serves only the local community.

Fact:

Yes, social media is a powerful tool that unites people and organizations around the world. But increasingly, people are using social media to find out what’s going on in their local communities. Use social media to reach customers by posting about events your business is involved in and interacting with other local businesses online. These posts and interactions build your social media authority on a local level, which matters to search engine rankings.

The relationship between social media and SEO isn’t black and white. Your company’s social media efforts should be tailored to your specific audience and needs. Contact an expert in inbound marketing, social media, and SEO in order to impact your reach with as many tools as possible.

5 Basic Sections That Every Website Needs

When building or redesigning your website, it’s easy to get bogged down thinking about all of the bells and whistles that a website can offer. While exciting design elements and dynamic content are important, making sure that you start with these five basics will ensure that your website is effective and engaging while you continue to build out your online presence.

Set the Stage with Your Home Page

Visitors who click on your URL will be directed straight to your home page. You want to make sure to give a good impression. Address your visitor’s important questions here. Including what services or products your business provides and what makes your business unique among competing businesses.

Make Your “About Us” Section Count

Potential customers click on the About Us section to learn more about the people and history that make your business trustworthy and reputable. Include details about your founders, leadership, and the story of your company’s beginnings.

Products and Services are Your Bread and Butter

Be sure to get into the details of each and every product and service you offer. This will benefit your website from an SEO standpoint, and it will also educate your readers about the specific offerings they can expect from you.

Don’t Hide Your Contact Info

Your “Contact Us” page should be in plain sight. Any visitors who would like to call or email your business should be do so without expending much effort. Keep this page short and sweet, and thank your visitors for showing an interest in you!

Inbound Marketing: Calls to Action and Content Offers

Consult with a web design and marketing firm with experience implementing inbound marketing campaigns to help capture your visitor’s information. Offer them more content that will engage them with your business, and will endeavor to turn visitors into customers.

Call one of our web design professionals today to make sure your existing website contains the five elements it needs to be effective, and make plans to redesign your site so that these basic components are as strong as possible.

Using Social Media to Generate Meaningful Conversations with Customers

A decade ago, in order to reach customers, you had to wait for the phone to ring. Today, you can proactively speak with customers, and potential customers, online, using your social media platforms. Smart use of social media can generate business in ways you never imagined.

Search for Your Customers

Each day, hundreds of millions of people take to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms to ask questions, make recommendations, complain, rave, and comment. A social media user may not post directly to your Facebook page or tweet at you, but there may be references to your product in various Tweets and posts on a regular basis. Search for your brands regularly in an effort to answer questions, thank people for their comments, or address concerns. Savvy users will also search on terms related to their brands in an effort to speak directly to customers who might now know of their company, but may benefit from their products or services.

Images are Everything

It may sound obvious to seasoned social media users, but many new or infrequent users of social media don’t realize just how impactful pictures can be in social media posts. If you’re tweeting about a promotion or posting on Facebook about new products or services, include a vibrant image in order to attract more viewers.

Make an Offer

Give customers a reason to follow you on social media by posting or Tweeting about special offers, deals, and promotions. You might even want to post about these special deals on a regular basis, say, every Wednesday, so that your customers know to flock to your social media profile that day. Best of all, you may find that your customers begin to recommend that their friends follow you.

Remember Demographics

You can’t reach your target customers if you’re not posting on the platforms they visit most frequently. Are you products geared toward a younger audience? Make sure your presence on Instagram and Snapchat is robust. Are your services offered to other businesses? Twitter is a great place for you to begin. Do you have family friendly offerings? Facebook is a great place to reach parents of young children.

Offer Related Content

Your customers are interested in your product, but they’re also interested in a range of topics, and you can tap into those interests. Are you a company that offers tutoring services after school? Then post about family friendly activities in your area, link to articles of interest to parents and kids, and produce family-oriented blog content. You’ll become a resource for your target audience.

When speaking with web design firms in order to redesign your website and bulk up your social media efforts, be sure to ask questions and make sure the firm you choose has expertise with a variety of social media platforms and strategies. With the help of an expert, you’ll expand your presence in no time!

SEO Made Simple: 3 Ways to Improve Your Google Ranking

When a customer searches for the services and products that your company provides on Google, is your company likely to come up as one of the top results? If not, you may be losing out on a vast number of customers simply because your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is lacking. Hiring a web design firm with experience in SEO will help you to improve your ranking.

1. When it comes to keywords, think smart.

Let’s say that your company sells handmade, wooden toys. Using the keyword “toys” is unlikely to set you apart from other toymakers. But when a customer searches for “wooden toys”, “handmade toys”, or “handmade wooden toys”, they may be more likely to find you. Think about exactly what makes your company stand out. If you have an emphasis on Montessori-based learning toys, include that in your keywords. If your toys are eco-friendly, make sure to use the phrase “eco-friendly toys” in your SEO strategy. Parents, grandparents, and schools, who want exactly what you sell, will more easily find you when you get specific.

2. Structure your site’s navigation appropriately.

Your site’s navigation is a key determining factor in your ranking on search engines. The more frequently you link to a certain page on your website from other pages on your website, the more importance that page is assigned by search engines. Make sure to speak with a web design firm to make sure this is done in a professional manner that engages the customer.

3. Speed matters.

How quickly does your website load? Does it take a few seconds for the home page to come up? How about the speed when navigating from page to page? If your site loads slowly, the slow speed will affect your site’s search engine ranking. Additionally, it will cost you customers. Visitors are likely to abandon a site quickly if the pages don’t load in enough time to keep them interested.

Consult with a professional web design firm to determine where your website is succeeding in terms of its SEO, and where it is failing. One of our design professionals can help to redesign your site so that potential customers are more likely to reach you and engage with your business.

Inbound Marketing: What is It? And How Can It Generate New Business for You?

Maybe you’ve heard the term discussed at conferences, mentioned in blog posts, or brought up by sales and marketing professionals. Many business owners are aware that inbound marketing is now the gold standard in new business development, but have yet to discover what it truly means and what it can do for their company.

Inbound marketing is a model which puts you, the business owner, in the driver’s seat. When generating high quality online content, you will attract new visitors to your website, and convert those visitors into customers. You’ll find yourself in the powerful position of learning about your customer base. By creating content that you know will appeal to your target audience. You’ll watch new customers come back to your site, and your business, again and again.

The First Step

In any inbound marketing campaign is thinking about the demographics and interests of the customers you want to attract. Then, generate interactions with those customers by publishing blog posts that are relevant to their interests. Engage with them on social media. Optimize your website so that it becomes a destination for your customers, and incorporating SEO into your web strategy.

The Second Step

Turn visitors to your website into real leads by gathering their contact information. Make it worthwhile for visitors to share their information with you by offering them content in exchange. Whitepapers, ebooks, and webinars are just a few of the informative and engaging products you can offer in order to capture your visitors’ info.

The Fhird Step

You’ll want to take is to use your leads’ information to turn them into customers. Using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, you can make sure that you keep track of key info about your leads that will allow you to tailor your marketing approach to them, using emailed content that is useful to them and underscores just how productive your potential business relationship could be.

The Fourth Step

Ensure that your customers continue to feel valued and understood, even after they’ve purchased your products or services. Continue to present them with content that speaks to them, and engage with them online in a way that reminds them of the value of your relationship with them.

An inbound marketing campaign might seem like quite the undertaking, but an agency with expertise in inbound marketing can help you to take on this challenge and reap the rewards.  If you’re interested to see how Inbound Marketing can grow you business, contact us for a free consultation.

7 Reasons Why Your Website is Not Engaging Your Audience

Are your analytics numbers looking dismal? Do you receive complaints from customers that your site is difficult to navigate? Or, worse, are your visitors dwindling to next to zero? Take steps to correct these seven common errors, and your website will begin to attract and engage the customers you’ve been looking for!

1. Navigating your website is like finding a needle in a haystack

If the navigational structure of your website is difficult to understand or sends your users to pages that are irrelevant to them, you will lose users immediately. No one sticks with a site that they can’t navigate.

2. You’re ignoring the need for compelling content

Create content that motivates readers to return for more. Easy-to-read articles and blog posts, clear titles and headlines that cut to the chase, images that pop, and appropriate SEO keywords and phrases are all integral to your site’s content

3. You’re not using internal links.

Using internal links is an important part of providing your readers with key resources. Linking back to your own relevant content is a great way to motivate your readers to explore your site even further.

4. You’ve been neglecting your analytics.

Review your analytics in order to observe which pages and posts are engaging readers, and which are points of exit from your site. Do more of what’s working and less of what isn’t.

5. Slow page speed is quickly driving your visitors away

If your website is slow, users will leave. It’s that simple. Page speed is of the essence, so much so that Google officially made it a ranking factor.

6. You don’t have a mobile-friendly site.

Make the most of your site, ensure that its optimized for mobile devices.  It should communicate the most important information to your visitors and be easy to navigate. Ensure that any forms or calls to action are easy to fill out.

7. You have no way of learning about your visitors

Attracting users to your site is the first step, but capturing their information in order to build a strong, ongoing relationship is your ultimate goal. Incorporate an opt-in form so that your readers can tell you about themselves and receive notifications of future blog posts, newsletters, and promotions.

Talk to a professional web design firm about where your site is succeeding, and where it falls short. Fixing common website mistakes can turn your site into a business development tool that motivates the right customers to come back again and again.

Branded versus Non-Branded Search Terms?

What Does Your Company Need to Know About Branded versus Non-Branded Search Terms?

Building an SEO strategy can be a challenge for business owners. You’re an expert in the products and services that your company provides, but very few business owners are familiar with the ins and outs of SEO, and that includes the crafting of search terms to boost your search engine presence. But understanding the way that search terms work is key to your success in building a high online profile.

What is the difference between a branded search term and what is a non-branded search term?

A branded search term uses the name of your business within the search term. This may consist of the name of your business alone, or in conjunction with the names of specific brands of items your business sells. For instance, your branded search term might be “Jennifer Miller Photography” or, if you sell Mpix branded photo albums to your customers, another term could be “Jennifer Miller Photography Mpix Photo Books”.

In contrast, non-branded search terms do not include the name of your business. They contain words that potential customers may use in order to search for a business that offers products and services that yours offers. For instance, you might use non-branded search terms such as “family photography”, “high resolution photo books”, or “professional photographer Cleveland”.

Should you be using branded or non-branded search terms?

Branded search terms are an important part of any business’ SEO strategy. When your customers search for your business, you want your website and social media profiles to rank at the top of their SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

But non-branded search terms target users who are not yet customers. If a user needs a professional photographer in their local area, they’ll search for the products, services, and location they are looking for. By zeroing in on the terms they are likely to use when they search, you’ll attract potential new customers to your site. For this reason, non-branded search terms are an essential part of your SEO plan.

How can you effectively use non-branded search terms?

First, research what your potential customers may be looking for. What are the products and services that attract people to your business most frequently? Build your non-branded search terms based on those products and services. You’ll also want to keep in mind the questions you’re frequently asked by customers, and use that terminology as well. Finally, think about your competitors and what their customers might be looking for. Make sure that your business appears in searches that might otherwise turn up hits for your competitors.

Hiring a professional web design firm will not only help you to build an engaging and effective website, but the experts you work with will be able to talk with you about your SEO strategy, and can assist in choosing branded and non-branded search terms. This will become an essential part of your company’s business development.

How Professional Web Design Can Solve Your Site’s Usability Issues

Are you confident that your company’s website is usable enough to attract, engage, and retain visitors? Does it allow your potential customers to access the most important information needed to establish how crucial your business is? A web design firm with expertise in usability can assess this for you. They determine key solutions that will make your website a welcoming place for potential customers.

Stay Organized

A good website design team will help you to take stock of important content, and make sure that it’s in a prominent position on your site. Your design team will also talk with you about how to efficiently route customers to the areas of your site they’ll be most interested in, so that they stay focused on your site and on the content that is most applicable to them.

Keep Content Fresh

There are a variety of ways to keep your website’s content current. Your designer will help cut down on outdated information, and make sure that up to date content takes the forefront. Additionally, blog content can help you to continuously bring new information to your users. Your web design team can provide guidance on topics and even facilitate the writing of each post.

Embrace Mobile Users

Much of your audience is reading on the go. Ensure that your site is mobile-friendly, so that it feels just as easy to navigate as your browser site. Don’t lose potential customers because they can’t access pertinent content on their smartphones!

The entire purpose of your website is to provide a place for users to easily learn about your business and access information that turns them into customers. A web design firm with experience designing business websites will understand your usability needs and can redesign your site so that you attract and retain exactly the users you need in order to grow.

How often should your website be redesigned?

As a professional in Internet technologies and a leader in website design for over 20 years, people ask me how often they should redesign their website. My answer varies depending upon what industry the person is in, as some industries are more Internet savvy than others. Tech-related companies have to be on the edge of emerging technology and must have a fresh design at least once a year, while other industries may not have the need to have a completely different design that often. In each case, the business has to remember that first impressions are integral to success. What impression does your website or your employer’s website give to a new visitor?

Regardless of industry, a good rule of thumb for redesign is when any of the following situations occur:

• Technology has greatly changed making the display of your site difficult to viewers

• When it no longer accomplishes the intended goals

• External factors result in decreased performance of your website’s rankings

Unfortunately for many organizations, one if not all of the above have happened in 2015. In April, Google announced that having a mobile-friendly website was imperative to achieving and maintaining top rankings. This is due to the importance of mobile devices. It is very possible that your website is not mobile friendly, and you have lost search engine rankings, as well as potential sales. Most small businesses rely on their website as a valuable sales tool. So when orders stopped coming in as they once were, business owners scrambled to find out why.